Year in and year out, football causes a stir in London. With several prominent teams and legions of excitable supporters, London may, in fact, have more to do with its biggest sport than any other city or capital in the world.
Yet sports fans today tend to have a fairly current outlook on things, which means there’s a lot about London’s football history we don’t know. Consider, if you will, the following bits of trivia.
The first reference to football in London comes from an account of city recreation by one William FitzStephen and was written in the late 12th century.
King Henry IV is credited with the first actual mention of ‘football’ in town – which came when he banned it in 1409.
Of the current, main league system teams in London, Fulham is the oldest. However, the first team in London was actually Royal Engineers AFC, a club that is also credited in part with having invented something resembling the modern sport. This organization was founded in 1863 and remains active in the Army Football Association. The club’s inception coincided with the decision to form the Football Association, and the decisions were made at the Freemasons’ Tavern.
Built in 1892, Goodison Park was the first stadium that was built specifically for football. Today, the modern version of the park still ranks among the better Premier League venues when it comes to atmosphere.
The first match ever played at Wembley Stadium was a staff scrimmage in 2007. However, the first actual match between professional players was less than a month later, between the U21 squads for England and Italy.
The first ‘London Derby’ event between two professional clubs in the capital didn’t occur until 1905 when Chelsea defeated Clapton Orient.
Despite being such a big part of British sport, betting away from sports venues wasn’t legalized until 1960, with the 1960 Act. Now, betting is intricately intertwined with football culture, and websites with top-rated event coverage online cover the action. It’s remarkable how far the industry has come.
1989-90 saw the greatest number of top-flight clubs from London at the same time, with eight. At the end of that season, Charlton and Millwall were relegated to the second division.
Tottenham Hotspur was the first London club to win a European-wide tournament, triumphing at the 1963 Cup Winners’ Cup.
Arsenal was originally called Woolwich Arsenal, after its cannon-making founders. Since becoming Arsenal, however, the club has never once been relegated.
Chelsea holds the record for the longest unbeaten streak at home by a London club – or any top-flight English club – at 86 matches. This streak stretched between 2004 and 2008, ending in the early stages of the 2008/09 campaign.
Featured image: Millenium Stadium by Virginia Knight (CC BY-SA 2.0) The second half of the match, which finished Brazil 3 Egypt 2; all five goals were scored at this end of the stadium. The flags of countries involved in the men’s and women’s football hang opposite. Ticket sales for Olympic football were slow but the stadium was not as empty as this photograph implies, as most people were seated on the same side as the photographer. Presumably, the TV cameras were on the other side facing us. This match gave British fans a chance to see the young Neymar, who scored Brazil’s third goal.